Scratch the surface of the vocal stylings of a lot of male American rock singers and you'll find the unmistakable relics of crooning. The genealogies are pretty explicit: Iggy Pop started off copying Jim Morrison, who really wanted to sing like Sinatra (go give "Touch Me" another listen) and Elvis, both of whom worshipped at the altar of Bing.
Iggy has always managed to sneak the melodious low phrasing of his forebears within the racket of the Stooges (e.g., the verses of "Gimme Danger"), but he has made his affiliations still more explicit with occasional covers of standards like Cole Porter's "Well, Did You Evah!," Harold Arlen & Johnny Mercer's "One for My Baby," and "I'll Be Seeing You." Even as his American handlers continue to persuade the often barechested 62-year-old to churn out body-surfing-friendly material for his lucrative stateside tours, it's not surprising that Mr. Osterberg would accept a French offer to make a nice 'n' easy record.
The long shadow of Gainsbourg is all over this project, which was expanded from soundtrack work for a Michel Houellebecq adaptation. (Iggy in a recent interview: "Every 10 or 15 years I'll meet some Euro nerd who is bright and wise enough to give me carte blanche on something, then leave me alone.") Although he occasionally shoots for a New-Orleans-in-the-'20s vibe (the Waits-ish "King of the Dogs"), the pervasive ambiance — represented by a lovely update of "Les feuilles mortes," the standard behind Chet Baker's "Autumn Leaves" — is firmly grounded in the Left Bank jazz of Boris Vian and early Serge.
Further revelations of the softer side of the Iguana include the primitive country blues of the loose jam "He's Dead/She's Alive," a spoken-word bit from Houellebecq's clone opera, The Possibility of an Island (Iggy found it reassuring that "someone was as negative as I am"), and a version of "How Insensitive" that brings it all back to the great bossa nova sessions by the Chairman of the Board and Jobim himself. In Préliminaires, the Stooge King has put together a perfect soundtrack for a short, doomy stay in the Hotel Lautréamont.